Determinants of fear over the course of avoidance learning

Mark D. Starr, Susan Mineka*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Most theorists have explained attenuation of fear over the course of avoidance learning by assuming that fear extinguishes with repeated nonreinforced avoidance trials. Experiment 1 replicates the finding that rats trained to a criterion of 27 consecutive avoidance responses (CARs) show less fear during the CS than rats trained to a criterion of 3 or 9 CARs. This attenuation of fear cannot, however, be accounted for by simple Pavlovian fear extinction, because yoked partners receiving the exact same pattern of CSs and USs did not show this attenuation and did not differ from yoked partners receiving only reinforced CS presentations. Experiment 2 found that feedback from the master avoidance learner's response is sufficient to produce this attenuation in yoked animals; "control" per se is not necessary. Several possible explanations are discussed regarding the mechanism underlying this role of feedback in diminishing fear of the CS in the avoidance learning context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)332-350
Number of pages19
JournalLearning and Motivation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1977

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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